A Budget Friendly Entry into Astrophotography

Photographing deep sky objects (DSOs) as well as solar viewing  is now possible with a budget-friendly smart telescope.

ZWO makes the seeStar S50, selling for under $700 CAD. This is the smart telescope Mike Burns recommended at the February Club meeting.

 It uses the Sony IMX462 CMOS sensor which has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (2 MP). The Seestar has an aperture of 50mm (1.97 in), a focal length of 250mm, and a focal ratio of f/5. It has built-in Bluetooth and WiFi, a battery life of approximately 6 hours.

The mount on the S50 is an altitude azimuth mount and not an EQ mount, so 10 seconds exposure works best. This mount features the ability to find and track any object in the night sky plus the Sun. Once you select the object you wish to capture, the mount will automatically point to it and keep it centered for the exposure astrophotography.

The Seestar S50 is not equipped to capture detailed images of planets, but you’ll be able to see craters on the Moon and detailed sunspots on the Sun.

Clicking this link provides great details on this smart telescope.

And, for a deeper dive into the Seestar S50 and how to use for viewing DSOs, see this youtube vide0

Tom Kimber – News

The Fermi Paradox And Us

Are we alone in the universe? What is the possibility that intelligent life exists on one of the many planets orbiting the billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy? Or the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies in the universe?

Wow, put that way, the glass seems half full. Surely, conscience, intelligent life is out there, somewhere. Then, there is the Fermi Paradox named after Enrico Fermi. He was an Italian physicist who, in the 1950s, posed the question, “Where is everybody”, referring to aliens from space?

Physicist Brian Cox tackles this question in a YouTube video which SAG member Bill Thompson suggests is worth viewing. You can view it HERE

Do You Want to Know?

The night sky is our viewing window to the heavens. Do you want to know the moon phases that you will see from the Stratford area by looking up? Or the planets visible this month with a telescope? Or where and when to spot the Space Station (aka ISS) with the naked eye? Links to great resources can be found under Club News. When on the HOME page, go to the MENU column on the right-hand side of the page, and select Club News.

Tom Kimber – News


Stratford’s Connection with Moon Exploration

A Lunar Rover and Stratford


Stratford is home to the lunar rover protoptyping facility of Canadensys Areospace. This is Canada’s first lunar rover. Read this incredible story by journalist Connor Luczka Here

As well, a story published by CBC providing more information on Canada’s involvement with future lunar exploration can be read Here

For a video insight into the Stratford prototyping facility, click Here

New Home for Club Equipment

THANK YOU, Paul Bartlett.

Paul has agreed to act as Club  Equipment Manager and store all club telescope equipment at his home in Stratford. Club members are welcome to borrow equipment to try out. Pick it up from Paul and return to Paul’s location.

Paul’s email is: 1948paul.bartlett@gmail.com

Click HERE to view a list of club equipment available.


Paul can be reached at this phone number: 519-274-2010


Also thanks to Terry Hastings for his  many yearsserved as Club Equipment Manager.


Intro to Astronomy at Museum – Review

Those 50-plus people who attended Stratford Museum’s Friday evening January 20 show entitled ‘An Introduction into Astronomy’ were wowed by two great presentations.

Dr. Michael Burns provided a whirlwind tour of the history of Astronomy from the Babylonians to the Event Horizon Telescope project that recently photographed the Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Paul Bartlett talked about the Winter Hexagon, visible in our winter skies throughout January, February, and March.

Both presenters are members of the Stratford Astronomy Group (SAG). They along with other SAG members attended along with telescopes. But the grey skies prevented night sky viewing. Telescopes along with eyepieces were set up inside the museum for display. 

The Winter Hexagon is a collection of some of the brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter sky (the Southern Hemisphere’s summer sky).  Not a constellation on its own, but an asterism.  The Winter Hexagon is a group of stars that form a noticeable pattern in the night sky.

It covers a large part of the winter sky. It’s made of the brightest stars from six different constellations: Rigel in Orion the HunterAldebaran in Taurus the BullCapella in Auriga the CharioteerPollux in Gemini the TwinsProcyon in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog and Sirius in Canis Major the Greater Dog. Also, an additional 1st-magnitude star, Betelgeuse in Orion the Hunter, lies toward the center of the Hexagon.  And as Paul explains, he became familiar with the winter sky by walking the family dog at night along an abandoned railway track in Tavistock, Ontario. The winter evenings and nights of January and February are best for viewing this asterism. 

Paul provided us with a mnemonic that can be used to remember the six constellation stars that make up the Winter Hexagon, starting with Cappella and ending with Pollex: Captain, All the Riggings Seems Perfectly Polished (Cappella, Aldebaran, Rigel, Sirius, Procyon, Pollux).  For another cool overview of the Winter Hexagon, watch this video clip.

Dr. Michael Burns, a retired astrophysicist, and SAG member delivered a “stellar” animated presentation of the universe, from its beginning to now.

With the help of a well-crafted visual presentation, Dr. Burns explained the problems of time and distance that earlier civilizations such as the Greeks and Babylonians wanted to resolve. How big is the Universe? What are the objects visible in the night sky? Why are some objects fixed in place following a similar pattern night after night while other objects appear to wander?

In their quest to explain what is seen in the night sky, the Babylonians developed mathematical systems which remain with us today. They used the sexagesimal system (based on the number 60), and they handed down to us the degree as a unit for measuring angles and 360 (the number of degrees in a circle or full rotation). We have 60 seconds in a minute. And 60 minutes in an hour. 

In his brief history of astronomy, Dr. Burns noted that our understanding of the size of the Universe changes as our abilities to understand the data we observe becomes clearer.

Issac Newton deduced laws of motion that applied to everything we see and do. For Newton, gravity works with every object exerting a force on another object. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity extended and refined Newton’s view. Instead of exerting an attractive force, Einstein, in his theory of general relativity, theorized that each object curves the fabric of space and time around them, forming a sort of well that other objects — and even beams of light — fall into. So   Light travels in a straight line but spacetime bends with the mass of objects. When data obtained from a solar eclipse in 1919 showed that light from stars was bent by the sun’s mass, almost overnight Einstein became the world’s most famous scientist. 

Then, Edwin Hubble, through careful observations of the heavens using the Mount Wilson telescope in California, from 1919 to 1929, determined that the Universe was bigger than the Milky Way galaxy. He deduced that there were many galaxies beyond the Milky Way and that the Universe is expanding at a constant rate. Again, the data proved Hubble to be correct in his predictions.

So the Universe is expanding? Yes, but the scientific community in the 1990s thought that the gravitational attraction of all the matter in the Universe would slow down this expansion that began 13 billion years ago with the primordial Big Bang. Instead, the data showed a different picture, a Universe whose expansion was accelerating. How is this possible? Dark energy and dark matter are two reasons. 

Normal matter consists of the atoms that make up stars, planets, human beings, and every other visible object in the Universe. But this normal matter almost certainly accounts for the smallest proportion of the Universe, less than 5%.

The more astronomers observe the Universe, the more matter is needed to explain the data.  This matter could not be made of normal atoms or there would be more stars and galaxies to be seen. Instead, they coined the term ‘dark matter’ for this peculiar substance precisely because it escapes our detection.

At present, even though many experiments are underway to detect dark matter particles, none have been successful. Nevertheless, astronomers still believe that approximately 25% of the Universe may consist of dark matter.

Dark energy is the latest addition to the contents of the Universe. Originally, Albert Einstein introduced the idea of ‘cosmic energy’ in his theory of general relativity to help explain why the Universe was not expanding or contracting in size. He and most of the scientific community at the time believed that the Universe was static. So, Einstein added a cosmological constant to his general relativity equation. All of this, before Hubble’s data, demonstrated that the Universe is expanding. The expanding Universe did not need a ‘cosmological constant’ as Einstein had called his energy. It is now thought that dark energy comprises 70% of the Universe.

Milky Way central black hole

Dr. Burns said that in 2019, astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — an international collaboration that networked eight ground-based radio telescopes into a single Earth-size dish — captured an image of the Milky Way’s central black hole for the first time.  

Remember, keep looking up.

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